Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Shogunle, is the officer in charge of the Complaints Response Unit (CRU), at the Force headquarters, Abuja. Since the unit came on stream, it has impacted positively on policing. Furthermore, it has created the platform for members of the public that have, over the years, suffered alleged police brutality, human rights abuses and other molestations to speak out against, the injustice perpetrated on them to the police authorities. In this interview, he talks about the successes and challenges so far. Excerpts:
THE journey so far Whatever the unit has to show, perhaps, I will leave that to the public to decide, because I wouldn’t want to sound as if we are praising ourselves. But one thing is certain, the CRU has been able to close the gap between the police and members of the public and it has been able to restore more confidence in members of the public about the police.
It has also been able to demonstrate that erring Police officers can actually be held accountable. We have been able to inform Police officers that the era of impunity is over and gone, and that everyone will be held liable to every form of professional misconduct. It is a journey we just started and it is a continuous journey that from time to time, will necessitate a lot of new things happening.
Why complaints still persist
Well, to be truthful, practical and from our records so far, there is nothing to suggest that police brutality is continuing in Nigeria.
As a matter of fact, just as we have indicated in our third quarter report, we are seeing sharp reduction in cases against the Police from members of the public.
But I need to state this clearly that for as long as we have policing operations, members of the public would always have concerns and complaints regarding policing activities even in the most developed world. For as long as there is human interaction; for as long as Police officers are on the streets, trying to prevent crime, trying to apprehend offenders, trying to respond to security issues, there will always be potential complaints from members of the public and I think the most important thing is how these complaints are handled and what actions the authorities are taking to address these complaints. I think that is very important which to the best of our knowledge we are doing in CRU.
State with the highest complaint
As we have seen in the third quarter report, Rivers State is number one with 78 complaints received from residents there out of the total 405 complaints received nationwide.
The 78 complaints from Rivers represent 19.26% followed by Lagos State with 72 complaints which is 17.78%. On the third spot is the FCT which has 48 complaints which is 11.85%. In fourth place, we have Anambra State which has 25 complaints which is 6.17% and it is very important for us to see that some states never recorded any complaints like Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi and Osun States. No single complaint was recorded against the Police from these states. If we also look at the distribution of these complaints, we will see that four states account for over 50% of the total complaints. These are Rivers, Lagos, FCT and Anambra states which account for 55.06%. So, even the complaints we are receiving are not evenly spread but you know it is the Nigeria Police. If anybody does anything in Rivers State for instance, it affects the whole force.
How we meet our mandate
The simple fact that we are seeing reduction in number of cases against the Police, to me is an achievement and the fact that the frequency of negative reports about the Police in both electronic and print media is waning is also an achievement because if we look at the frequency of negative reports against the police in the past, there was hardly a day that you opened the newspaper that you won’t see one negative report about the Police.
But, it is a fact as we speak that such reports have reduced. So to me, this is an achievement; that Police officers are now aware that members of the public have a platform where they can lodge their complaints if they are not satisfied, and disciplinary actions can be taken and are seen to be taken against erring officers in proven cases.
Number of Police officers sanctioned
If we go back to the previous reports we released before now, we have indicated that one of the officers has been sanctioned recently. We have 20 officers so far sanctioned and part of these punishments include dismissal. A traffic officer was dismissed from service for bribery related case. In this current quarter, we have the issue of an Assistant Commissioner of Police who received bribe money of N2.7million. The money was recovered from him. All these are also happening as a result of efforts of the Inspector-General of Police IGP Ibrahim Idris, to strengthen the capability of the CRU which includes the infusion of the X-Squad to activities of the CRU. So, some officers have received various degrees of sanctions as prescribed under the police regulations. Of all the cases I am talking about, none is criminal in nature; they are cases against discipline in the force.
How we caught an Assistant Commissioner of Police
Regarding this particular case, the case was reported through a phone call. CRU received the phone call where the complaint was made. Thereafter, the IGP directed that the case should be referred to X-Squad. This complaint came after the IGP had directed that the X Squad be part of the responding agents of CRU and the X Squad carried out their investigation which confirmed the allegation. The money was recovered, disciplinary action taken as prescribed by the Police regulations and civil service rules. The officer was issued query, he has faced the Force Disciplinary Committee and the FDC has written a report which was submitted to the IGP and the IGP has forwarded the recommendations to the Police Service Commission. So, we are waiting for Police Service Commission to take a decision on the matter. At the moment, he is still working. Like I told you, we are following the procedures laid down, but he is not having any contact with members of the public.
Number of cases reported so far
In the first quarter of this year, a total of 1554 cases were reported. In the second quarter, a total of 906 cases were reported and in this third quarter a total of 405 cases were reported. If we sum up these figures, we would get the total of cases reported so far and released. In the first quarter, we resolved 899 cases; second quarter, 799 cases were resolved and third quarter 324 cases were also resolved.
We have also been recording false cases that after investigation, we discovered that the case reported never happened.
Extending our frontiers
That has already been done because we have CRU responding agents in all Police Stations across the country. The SIB (Special Intelligence Bureau) operatives are in all Police Stations and they are also responding officers of CRU at the State Commands.
We have the Provost Marshals; the Command Provost is also part of the responding officers of CRU. The Control Room, they are also responding officers of the CRU. CRU is nationwide.
What we have just done is that we have centralized the complaints.